More than 25 percent of active registered voters in Nevada are not Democratic or Republican. 21 percent are registered as Non-Partisan, choosing no political party. Among those 18 – 34 years of age, these numbers are 10 percent higher. This is the only segment of registered voters gaining voter share. (Click here to see the latest statistics). Voters are growing tired on the partisan rhetoric and lack of solutions. In 2010 I joined this group. It was one of the toughest decisions of my life.
This may sound familiar. This may be your story or you know someone whose story it is. I’ve been politically active my entire adult life, even running for city council in California. As a young adult in the mid-1960’s my first party registration was Democratic. Shortly after joining the military in the late-1970’s I switched to Republican, a registration I held for over 30 years. But it got to a point where none of the political parties represented my views. I knew if I registered as Non-Partisan, I would be voluntarily giving up a right I cherish. However, I felt I had no choice.
By the time I changed my registration, partisanship at all levels of government had taken hold as the driving force behind political decisions. Loyalty to party and to the small yet vocal fringe became more important than finding solutions that worked for all citizens. I knew this had to change. Our elected officials and our government as a whole need to be strongly encouraged to return to the process of governing. In the summer of 2013, as an ever-increasing number of Nevada voters were withdrawing from the process, the Nevada Election Modernization and Reform Act was conceived.
Nevada Election Modernization and Reform Act (NEMRA)
Nevada has a problem; the growing hyper-partisan political environment is driving voters away and preventing good governance from taking place. The solution leading up to the 2015 Nevada legislative session was to have the legislature replace the state’s partisan closed primary election system, a system that excludes over 25 percent of registered voters from participating in the process that in most cases determines the winner of the general election, with a system that allows all voters to cast ballots in all publicly funded elections.
NEMRA took the advantages of a primary election system currently used in California, Washington, Nebraska, and Louisiana where all candidates regardless of party affiliation are listed on a single ballot and all voters vote, with the top-two finishers advancing to the general election (but expanding it to the top three) and combining it with the advantages of a single election process used in several cities called Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) in the general election. The question at this point was how legislators would receive this idea. Thankfully this is Nevada where state legislators will meet with residents regardless if they are constituents or not to discuss ideas that could benefit the state. Between September, 2013 and February, 2015 over two dozen legislators and candidates as well as several advocacy groups were given the details of NEMRA. With a detailed monthly voter registration analysis along with other important information on the growing hyper-partisanship in the United States showing the need for election reform being posted on the NEMRA blog, NEMRA was being taken seriously.
The 2015 session of the Nevada legislature began the first week of February, 2015. On the last day for filing bill draft requests (BDR), the Chair of the Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee, Senator Patricia Farley (R – Las Vegas)*, filed a BDR for NEMRA. Because of concerns on Ranked Choice Voting expressed by the Legislative Council Bureau, SB 499 was introduced as a modified Top-Two primary bill without the RCV option. Following a committee hearing, the bill’s original language was stripped; NEMRA died for that session, and the bill was passed to implement other election related changes. * Senator Farley changed her party affiliation to Non-Partisan before the start of the 2017 session
2017 and SB 103
The decision was made to try for a bill during the 2017 legislative session. Following many more meetings and continued blog postings, Senator James Settelmeyer (R Minden) filed a BDR for a Top-Two primary just after Thanksgiving, 2016. On February 7, 2017 SB 103 was introduced on the floor of the state senate. The bill was short-lived. The Democratic Party had taken control of the legislature following the 2016 election and their leadership was determined not to let SB 103 proceed. The bill was not given a hearing and died.
There was one major difference between the efforts leading to the 2015 session and the 2017 session, interest of various activist groups in election reform. The campaigns of 2016 were having an impact on peoples’ opinion of the electoral process. Both the Democratic and Republican Party were losing voter share month after month while the percentage of those registered as Non-Partisan or in one of the minor political parties continued to grow. This trend was and continues to be across all demographics; state-wide, Clark County, Washoe County, rural counties, among those 18 to 34 years old and those 55 and older.
The Next Step
Two legislative sessions, two bills. The time has come for a ballot initiative. Over the next several months, the Greater Choice – Greater Voice initiative will take shape. The informal coalition that developed will become an organized presence and voice for election reform. Nevadans for Election Reform will be the leading voice and force behind this effort. Whether this will be on the 2020 or 2022 ballot is dependent on getting it right. Wording is critical. The initiative, if passed, becomes the law. If wording does not address any concern or potential legal challenge, success will not be achieved. One only need look at the firearm background check and marijuana legalization initiatives recently passed by the voters for issues that can arise.
If you are among the growing number of voters frustrated with the partisanship infecting our political process, believe your vote doesn’t matter, that you don’t have any real choice of candidates, YOU are part of the solution. Click here to add your voice to Nevadans for Election Reform. Volunteer NOW. Donate by clicking on the “Donate” button on the bottom of this page or send a check to the address listed here so voters in Nevada can have a greater choice and a greater voice in their government.
Who am I
My name is Doug Goodman. I am the founder and executive director of Nevadans for Election Reform. I moved to Sparks, NV in 2004 from Livermore, CA. I retired from the U.S. Army after 20 years in 1996. In 2011 I fully retired from a career in warehousing and distribution management. I have been politically active since before I could vote (voting age was still 21). I’ve worked campaigns at all levels, served on various governmental boards, and ran for Livermore, CA city council in 2001. I’ve now added election reform advocate and lobbyist to that list.
I am a perpetual optimist. I believe one person and one vote can and does make a difference. I invite you to join Nevadans for Election Reform, to donate, and add your voice to those who make a difference.